Planning Commission approves solar development in Cranberry

The Venango County Regional Planning Commission, during its meeting on Tuesday, gave approval on a solar development for Cranberry Township. However, the plan met with vehement disapproval from one of the approximately 30 people in the standing-room-only crowd inside the Courthouse Annex.

The 125-acre solar development is by Cardinal Solar LLC, which is connected to Cypress Creek Solar. The solar installation, between Cranberry-Rockland Road and Bucktail Road, will consist of 1,740 solar panels and a driveway connecting it to Cranberry Rockland-Road, according to information provided in the Planning Commission’s agenda packet.

Several representatives from Cypress Creek were in attendance, including Marcelo Lando, who said the solar panels to be used in the development do not contain hazardous materials.

Construction, he said, is to begin no earlier than the second week of March and work hours will follow “local authorities instructions.”

Aaron Seely, a senior project developer with Cypress Creek, said the panels are made in Mexico and, at this point, all solar panels contain components manufactured in China.

He said the power produced by the solar installation will go straight into the energy grid, as would be the case with any other power plant.

In response to questions, the Cypress Creek representatives said when the solar panels are tilted to the maximum height, they will be higher than the 6-foot fence and vegetation surrounding the solar installation.

Lando said the third party Cypress Creek contracted with to build solar installations typically tries to hire locally instead of bringing in workers, which is more expensive.

Managers of the project will have background checks done and other people working on clearing the land and constructing the solar installation will have a background check and drug test done, according to Seely, who couldn’t speak to background checks on future maintenance staff.

The access roads will be wide enough to allow for emergency vehicle access, according to the representatives.

The land the solar installation will be built on is owned by Park and Paula Findlay and Chad and Jennifer Findlay, according to parcel viewer.

Chad Findlay had been the township’s manager before he resigned in December 2021 to spend more time on his business, Keystone Transit. His 13 years of service with the township included five as code enforcement and zoning officer. He later served as assistant secretary and treasurer before becoming manager.

Cranberry resident Laura Allaman said she would not have built a house where she did if she had known about the proposed solar installation, which Allaman expects to have a negative impact on the value of her property and the properties around her.

“There is nobody in Cranberry Township who wants to live by a solar farm,” she said. “Decisions were made in private behind closed doors. Sure, you could show up to the public hearing, but the supervisors basically said you can’t fight this or we will get sued.”

In saying the process was marked by “sneakiness,” Allaman noted she heard about the proposed development while at work.

She said township officials would not give her information on the project slated to be built near her home, but when she contacted Cypress Creek employees she was provided with information.

Allaman said many of her neighbors also are upset about the solar project, but after how they were treated at the township meetings they didn’t believe it was worth attending the Planning Commission meeting.

“I understand it is what it is. This is the new way of life, but it is still hard to accept,” she said. “I hope the next person who has to go through this will not have decisions made at a lot of closed-door meetings.

“Where I’m living I am going to have to see that solar farm to the day I die, unless I live past the age of 85.”